Love in the Time of Scurvy
Denton, Texas-based Kid Chaos' debut album Love in the Time of Scurvy is full of fury and energy that drives tunes written with wit and humor. This punk with horns band (don't dare call them "ska") can tear it up -- too bad the production quality of this disc sucks. The mix throughout the entire disc is crappy, at best. It's like they paid their 14-year-old fan club president $25 to master it or something. I'm sure these guys put on a HELL of a show, but it's not evident on these recording, what-so-ever. (RZ)
(Vile Beat Records -- P.O. Box 42462, Washington, DC. 20015; http://www.beatville.com/)
down with the scene
The best way I can describe this CD is to call it a techno - noise - core - psychotic - acid - trip - gone - bad - and - mixed - with - elements - of - every - musical - and - non - musical - form - of - sound - ever - tossed - into - a - blender - and - swallowed - by - a - sick - midget - who - is - in - turn - eaten - by - a - giant - squid - and - then - digested - and - put - onto - a - CD. Looking for guest appearances? Mike Patton adds vocal and keyboards to "secrets 4 sale," Kevin Martin of Techno Animal and Ice adds saxophones to "ruin it, ruin them, ruin yrself then ruin me," and Medicine and Electric Company frontman Brad Laner co-wrote "dame nature." If you are into some sick noise, you will love this CD. Some may even blame this disc for the current change in Radiohead's sound, as Thom Yorke had it listed as his favorite on the band's website recently... (RZ)
(Ipecac Recordings -- P.O. Box 1197, Alameda, CA. 94501; http://www.ipecac.com/; Kid 606 -- http://www.brainwashed.com/kid606/)
The old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover" hasn't rung so true before when talking about a CD. The cover of the Killingtons' debut is an old picture of a car on fire in front of a Shell gas station, warning of impending doom and evoking mystery and suspense. However, the music of the Killingtons is something else, entirely. There is no "fire," there is no "explosiveness" -- the only thing they got right was the impending doom of all of the bad reviews this CD is going to get. I like indie rock, or emo, or whatever you call it these days, but these guys are the bottom of the barrel. The songs are flat and uninspired. Go back to the indie drawing board and try again, fellows. (RZ)
(MEG Records -- http://www.themeg.com/; The Killingtons -- http://www.thekillingtons.com/)
Kind of Like Spitting
Home: Volume I
Tour Support Series No. 14
Old Moon In the Arms of the New
There's still a couple weeks left, but Ben Barnett (who is, essentially, Kind of Like Spitting, even if he's got other people on stage and on his records with him now and again) still has the lead for best show of 2000. Armed with himself, an acoustic guitar, and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre t-shirt, he spent his half-hour time slot of NXNW playing a set that would have been emotionally devastating if he weren't so damn funny (in the best, most sincere way, not in a joke-telling way) in his tirades against the sponsors of said festival. Not content to merely emotionally pillage music venues in live performances, however, Kind of Like Spitting has also managed to put out two of my favorite records of the year, and two other interesting records, in what seems like a four-month time period.
All of which leaves me a little perplexed, because it seems like the quick review tag for KOLS (damned if I'll type that every time; sorry, Ben), looking over other reviews, is "depressing and sad", which reminds me of all the reviews that bands I used to be into several years ago got (like Lou Barlow) but that I have no patience for now that I'm generally a happier person. I don't seek out that genre of music particularly these days, and more often than not am annoyed by it. Maybe because it feels, retrospectively, like much of that work winds up using sadness as something to pander to its target audience instead of an honest personal expression.
But what KOLS has going for it is something -- several things, really -- which go beyond the "depressing and sad" tag used by sloppy critics who are, in all probability, getting paid more than I am, which would be easy to do (hell, I even paid for every single one of these records). For one thing, there are so many more emotions at play, and even some directly opposite emotions. Whether it's rueful self-awareness ("Yes, you're busted" from $100 Room) or tender love and longing ("43C" from Old Moon In the Arms of the New), the expression of emotion is hardly a monochromatic gray hue. Another thing worth noting is that, similarly, the music isn't monochromatic either. From sparse acoustic to full band rockers and many way-stations inbetween, there's a wide musical ground covered in KOLS's recordings. (And live performances as well; if you're fortunate enough to live in Portland, you're just as likely to see him solo acoustic as you are with a full band.) Not only that, but KOLS can play well. All of which, I guess, indirectly points to the last thing that KOLS has going for it -- a daunting intelligence and curiosity with an absolutely fearless dedication to brutally direct and irony-free self-expression, a combination that's shockingly rare, when you really start thinking about it.
Anyway. On to the four recordings at hand. The Post-Parlo record, "Home", is a split CDEP with Jeff London, another Portland singer-songwriter. KOLS contributes two acoustic songs, one of which is originally Jeff's as well. Strong songs, and Jeff's work is some of the best I've heard by him, but all in all a minor KOLS release, which is to say that it's merely darn good if unfortunately brief.
The Insound tour support EP (8 songs) is acoustic, and half covers (including a Minders cover, which some closed minds may find incongruous). It's got a nice "hey, we recorded this in the kitchen one afternoon" feel without seeming tossed off in the slightest. I wouldn't recommend it as an entry point to KOLS (unless you're really allergic to electric guitar), and the songs here don't stick with me as much as some of KOLS's other songs do, but it's something any fan be happy to own.
So, on to the full lengths, which I alluded to earlier as two of the best records of the year. Both of these records have a wide variety of musical settings on them (including a cappella on $100 Room), but wind up having very different feels to me. $100 Room has the feel of ... I want to say "rock opera", or "concept album", or "musical", but all of these terms probably will cause you to involuntarily gag. What I mean is that there's a flowing unity to it that seems wholly preconceived, an architected structure that causes the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Not that the songs aren't good on their own right, but there's something about the sequencing (including the virtually absent spaces between songs) that propels this record forward for me.
Old Moon In the Arms of the New may not be quite as good of an album overall per se, which is to say it's only amazing, but it has two of my three favorite KOLS songs ever on it. (The third, the absolutely shattering "Blue Period", is on last year's Nothing Makes Sense Without It, but has to be experienced live if at all possible.) It has a much different feel from $100 Room; I'd describe this as more resembling a radio show or mix tape put together by a guy with good taste who's working through some issues. And there's plenty of good tunes on it to discover. But forget all that, let me tell you about the two songs on this record that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.
"43C" I mentioned before; I consider it a minor miracle of a song, a short tune about a long-distance relationship steeped in longing and hope and a beautiful love. It's just acoustic guitar and voice, and virtually any singer would have done another take (at one point, it almost sounds like he's about to drown on his own spit). That imperfection is, however, the necessary flip side of the stunning immediacy of this song, which has the intimacy of reading a love letter without any of the slimy voyeuristic feelings, and an inevitable part of a performance that elevates what would be a merely great song in someone else's hands to something timeless. So damn good.
And then there's "Tyco Racing set and a Christmas story fifteen times", which originally appeared on the MASS comp (also on Hush Records). As sweet as "43C" is, "Tyco ..." provides a mirror of sorts, an irredeemably sour and desperate emotional experience of a song, which I mean as a compliment. It may be 6 of the most powerfully oppressive minutes of your life if you give yourself over to it, in the way that only a truly great song can throw a great weight on your heart no matter what your emotional state is. Or maybe I'm full of it. All I know is, the other Saturday I was having a great day, and drove out to a store to pick up some computer parts. On the way, I got to this song, and instinctually turned the volume up. I got to the store halfway through the song and sat in the parking lot and listened to the rest of the song, almost crying for no damn reason besides the song, which I've heard twenty times before easy.
Anyone who can write a song that does that to me is somebody who I wish to unconditionally praise. Hopefully this counts. (DD)
(Post-Parlo Records -- P.O. Box 49121, Austin, TX. 78765; http://www.postparlo.com/; Insound -- http://www.insound.com/; Ohev/Ganaarecordings; Hush Records -- P.O. Box 12713, Portland, OR. 97212; http://www.hushrecords.com/)